Jay Leno makes a reported $32 million a year as the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and banks every dime. Just in case.

“I’ve always done that,” Leno said over the phone the other day. “That’s my style.”

It started when he was growing up in Massachusetts and had two jobs: One at McDonald’s, the other at a car dealership.

He saved the fast-food money and lived on the dealership money. Then he banked the dealership money and lived on the money he made doing stand-up. Then he lived on the stand-up money and banked the “Tonight Show” checks.

But … why?

“I’ve always looked at TV as a temporary job,” he said, “and then it ends and you don’t work for a long time.”

Comedians are an insecure lot, aren’t they? Leno has been on the air since 1992, and still he worries about holding onto his job.

And so Leno has been making Sunday night appearances at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, Calif., since 1978, as a way to work on his act.

“You can’t just run marathons,” he said. “You have to run every day. If you’re trying to keep a couple of hours of material in your head all the time, you have to work on it.”

He gets a lot of help from his writers, some of whom live in the Northwest and send him jokes. If they’re good enough, he hires them for his staff, sight unseen.

One joke-writer he hired turned out to be an Orthodox rabbi. Another had severe cerebral palsy; he showed up at NBC and told Leno he had to work at home. Fine with Leno. “I was hiring people based on the material,” he said.

No conversation with Leno is complete without talking about cars.

That morning, he drove his 1966 Ford 7-liter Galaxie in to work. He finished the restoration last year.

“It was the car I made my dad buy when I was a kid,” Leno said.

He remembered every detail: the dealership (Shawsheen Motors in Andover, Mass.), the salesman’s name (Tom Lawrence), and that, unbeknownst to his father, Leno ordered the 428 engine with the “police pursuit package,” the muffler-delete option and bucket seats.

When the car arrived, Leno’s father was incensed, calling it “a (expletive) rocket ship.”

Three months later, Leno found a speeding ticket in his father’s drawer. He had been caught going 110 mph in the car he didn’t want.

Years later, Leno would drive the car into a tree. And years after that, he would find another just like it, and restore it.

God knows he had the money.

Hallmark picks MacDowell for first series

NEW YORK – Andie MacDowell will be a pioneer for the Hallmark Channel, starring in its first prime-time series.

Hallmark said Wednesday that MacDowell will portray municipal court Judge Olivia Lockhart in “Cedar Grove.” It will start with a two-hour movie airing later this year and continue with a 13-episode series early in 2013.

The new series is based on books by author Debbie Macomber. Movie adaptations of Macomber’s books have been among the top-rated programs on Hallmark over the past three years.

MacDowell’s movie credits include “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” “Groundhog Day” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”

‘Hatfields & McCoys’ a hit in TV ratings

NEW YORK – There’s nothing like a backwoods blood feud to excite television viewers on Memorial Day.

The first part of the History network’s miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” was seen by 13.9 million viewers Monday night, and more than 17 million when the immediate repeat was added in, the Nielsen company said. The numbers held up for part two on Tuesday, which was watched by 13.1 million, Nielsen said.

Those are huge numbers in the cable television world. No scripted series on the broadcast networks last week came close. By contrast, Fox’s series finale of “House” last week reached 8.7 million people.

“Hatfields & McCoys” had two big-name stars in Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton and is airing in two-hour chunks.

Broadcast television was dominated by competition shows again last week, led by the 21.5 million people who watched the “American Idol” finale on Fox.